YOU ONLY DIE TWICE
Part One: Cyclical History
CHAPTER TWO: BURIED SECRETS
Finally alone, Max Brewer glanced up at the clock which to her surprise read Two AM. Had she really been up that long? The time she had spent with the Junior D.E.B.S. had just flown by. Reflexively, she yawned, bringing her hand up to cover her mouth. Her eyelids began to feel like ten-pound weights. Shed lost track of the time; try as she might, her body just wasnt built for twenty-hour days.
Exhausted, Max picked up her briefcase, exited her office and began to stroll down the hallway, eager to get back to her quarters and collapse on her bed.
"Hey, Max! Wait up!" called a deep male voice from behind her. Max stopped her path and turned her head towards Gene, a genuine smile breaking through her fatigue.
"Hey, whats up?"
"Nothing much, want some?" Gene asked as he munched on a pack of cheese crackers in his hand.
"Sure," Max responded, as he peeled back the wrapper and handed her one of the square, orange crackers.
"So, how are things going with the kids? Sending them off to school yet?" Gene asked, flashing his teeth as a sly grin lit up his face.
Max laughed at the running joke between the two. Max spent so much time with the school-girl D.E.B.S. that she might as well be their mother. "They're good. Danielle's a real leader, they're lucky to have her. But Meagan–I'm just not sure with her. Maybe she'll end up getting it, but she doesn't have that long. She worries me sometimes. I mean, shes a great girl, but I'm not sure shes got the makeup of a true D.E.B."
Gene snorted, he'd heard this before. "Isn't that what you said about Janet a long time ago? I tend to remember discussions you, Scud, Janet and I have had, where you said you never thought she'd make it, and now look at her. She's got it all figured out."
Max looked up at the D.E.B.S./CIA liaison, looking into the deep brown eyes that complimented his fair skin. "Yeah," she admitted, "there's a lot about her that reminds me of Janet. But Janet already had it all together this close to graduation, even if I didn't realize it."
And what makes you so sure Meagan doesn't?
Max silently, albeit fondly cursed Gene. Why did he have to be so damn wise? Maybe he was right, maybe Meagan already knew what it meant to be a D.E.B. Perhaps she just showed it in a different fashion. "I guess I cant be sure. But she really cant get her stripes until she proves it, can she?"
"That's your call between you and Danielle." Gene finished. "Oh, by the way, um–speaking of Janet, are you going to the wedding in a couple weeks?"
"Of course," Max laughed, "she's one of my squad. D.E.B.S. stick together, I wouldn't miss it for the world. How about you?"
Gene flashed her a toothy grin. "Of course I'm going to be there! I'm Scuds best man after all!"
"So, I'll see you there," said Max. She would have said more, but she often found it awkward to talk to Gene. Why was it that hard? She was Max Brewer, she could face down criminal masterminds with ease, but talking to Gene seemed to be harder than that.
"Um...would...um" Gene began and paused, a hitch in his voice. Max looked up questioningly, only to see his face blush a fierce red.
After waiting a few silent seconds for Gene to resume speech, Max took matters into her own hands. "So, was there something you wanted to ask?"
Genes face flushed yet again. "Would you...um...eh...Would you want–erm...um...Would you happen to know what the weathers like outside?"
Max had more than a sneaking suspicion that wasn't the question he was really meaning to ask, but she had to admit, he was kind of cute when he got all flustered. "No, I don't know. I didn't bother to check."
Gene opened his mouth, and quickly shut it again. Whatever he wanted to say just wasn't going to come out of his mouth. Max began to walk out of the D.E.B.S. building to her car, and Gene followed closely behind, an awkward silence overshadowing the walk.
As they approached Jameson's exit, the pounding of torrential rainfall grew louder and louder. Opening the glass door, Max inhaled a breath through her nose, savoring the smell of a fresh spring rain.
"Oh shit!" Gene exclaimed, his face scrunching into an extremely annoyed expression. "What a night for my car to be at the repair shop!" He fumbled with his hand in the back pocket of his pants, searching for what Max could only imagine to be a token for the transportation system.
Max reached into her briefcase and withdrew a black umbrella. Forcing it open and stepping out of the door, safe beneath its protective surface, she smiled and turned back to Gene, who was still scuffling around in his pocket. "Hey! Want a ride?" she shouted over the pounding rain.
Genes face relaxed, his emotion clearly changing on his face from exasperation to relieved gratitude. "Oh, thank you. You're a lifesaver!" he said as he ran through the rain to Max, just fitting under the umbrella beside her.
Giggling, the two sprinted to Max's car, simply and genuinely glad to be in each others company.
The smell of the hearth fire permeated the room; the crackling sounds of the fire the only audible noise apart from the endless drone of the television. The tongues of the fire danced, flickering light over the faces of the two young women.
"Lucy, what do you mean?" Amy asked, Lucy didn't answer, her face sinking even further. Abruptly, she moved from the couch to the bookshelf on the wall opposite the fireplace, where she began a furious search. "Luce, you're scaring me."
Still, Lucy didn't respond, continuing her search. After clearing half of the bookshelf, overturning many of the books and leaving things a disorderly mess, Lucy found what she was looking for, pulling a large red canvas-bound book from the shelf. She blew across the surface, clearing the dust, which flew away from the book in a cloud. Lucy Reynolds crossed the room and tossed the book to her lover and fiancee.
Amy gazed at the book in confusion, taking in the gold border that was engraved on the cover.
"Open it," Lucy said, the silence finally broken. Amy followed directions and, as she opened the book, was greeted by an old, yellow-tinted photo. The picture showed a man and a woman, the woman with a small babe in her arms, two other children, a boy and a girl stood on either side of the couple. The man and what Amy assumed was his family wore the clothes of poverty, old-fashioned garments that were torn and tattered. The family stood in front of a backdrop of a large ship, from which a stream of people seemed to be exiting. Far in the distance, Amy thought she might have been able to make out the Statue of Liberty, towering above all else.
"That's us," Lucy said. "Not me, I mean, but the Reynolds family, fresh off the boats from England. They'd lived a harsh life in England, and the rumors of this New World excited them, I guess. So they packed up all their possessions and were one of the first immigrants to come over from England in the 1880s. Once they got here, they tried settling down in Maryland, if you turn the page."
Amy did so, finding another old, decaying picture. This one depicted the children, now older, probably in their teenage years, working endless fields. The plantation itself looked as if it were a wreck; the only plants Amy saw in the picture were either dying or already dead. "Obviously, they tried to settle into the only lifestyle they knew, which was farming. They failed miserably. It was the Age of Steel, as my Dad told me, and they weren't ready for it. All the rumors they'd heard about America were vicious lies. But still, they remained vulnerable, even as they began to hunger. Dad told me that Catlyn, the girl in the first photo, the older of their two daughters, died in Baltimore. Anyway, once they heard of the gold in California, they figured it was an easy way to get rich, and so they packed up their bags and headed west."
"From the stories passed down, the travel was gruesome," Lucy continued. Amy glanced at the photo on the opposite page to see another old photo, which showed the wagon the family had traveled in, and the unhappy passengers in front. Every single one of them looked thinner even than when they had arrived in America.
"Anyway, once they got to California, of course, most of the gold was already gone - gobbled up by the people who had been there for decades. Just their luck that they arrived at the very end of the rush, you know? So they staked it out farming again. For a decade or so it worked, but as time grew on, that field kind of dried up. Anyway, Robert, the grandson of the couple in the first picture, and my Dad's great grand-father and namesake was forced to get a job in a factory just to put food on the table for the family. For a while, the story goes, that was sufficient. Robert found a wife, and had children of his own, the entire Reynolds clan still living together. Despite the government not letting unions form, he got paid just enough to live on."
"Then came the Great Depression. It hit the Reynolds especially hard. While Robert's mother had already died, the Depression practically ended his father's life. Robert lost his job, and the Reynolds went into poverty again. Robert and his wife lost their first child from malnutrition. That's when, after trying everything else, the Reynolds crime family was born."
"First it started out just by stealing bread and everything. Sure, Robert could have waited in soup lines, I guess, but it was demeaning. The Reynolds have never been people to allow themselves to be looked down on; we've always been strong. Anyway, Robert began to steal food to feed his family, but naturally, as he continued thievery undetected by the police, he progressed from food to clothing, and somewhere along the line the family turned to art and diamond thefts."
"And bank heists?" added Amy.
Lucy laughed, "Nah, not until Dad. I guess you could say that we were the first family of serial cat burglary in California. If you look in the book, you'll see a lot of the exploits that turned up in the newspapers."
Amy did as instructed, her eyes growing wider at each headline she read. Tiger Diamond Disappears from L.A. Art Museum. Da Vinci Goes Missing. Van Gogh Van Goes - The Case of the Vanishing Paintings.
"The authorities never really caught on," Lucy continued, her face emotionless, still lost in deep thought, "but the Reynolds' reputation grew and grew in the underground circles. Soon, they were known as the top criminals on the western half of the US, if not the top criminals in the country. They had their run of Los Angeles, and they loved it. No one really challenged them, until the Schaeffers came."
Amy flipped another page, a photograph of two men, arms around each other. Both men wore billy caps on their heads and were dressed in fine black suits without ties. Both were grinning wide smiles.
Lucy looked down at the picture and smiled a forlorn smile. "That one's of my great-grandfather, Jack and George Schaeffer. The Schaeffers arrived in California just as World War II was ending, not a penny to their name. Like the Reynolds, their family had originally come from England, and Robert supposedly saw a lot of his own family in them. He took pity on them, and took the family under his wing. Jack, who was following in his fathers footsteps, became fast friends with George, who was about his age. For a time, they were partners, the Reynolds and the Schaeffers. George even married Jack's sister, Abby, and as my Dad told me, it seemed like it would be a bond between families that would last forever."
"Anyway, apparently Abby became ill, which was hard on both families. George broke ties with the Reynolds and Robert blamed him for her sickness, which probably wasn't right. By the time she died, the two families were so far apart that there was no reconciliation."
"That's when the feud started. In the beginning, it was just George moving in and subsequently thwarting some of Jack's conquests. Jack didn't take too well to that, but they staked out territory peacefully. The Reynolds, as the more prominent of the two families, took the better part of California, while the Schaeffers pretty much consigned themselves to Northern California. But they weren't happy with it, and they moved in a couple of times on Reynolds territory."
"Of course, that bothered Jack a lot, and he sent out a few men for a mission in Schaeffer territory. They never returned. One day, Jack got a box on his doorstep. He opened it and inside were five fingers, one of which had a ring with the Reynolds monogram on it. His men had been slaughtered."
"And thus the blood feud began." Lucy sighed. Amy flipped through picture after picture of bloody scene, dead bodies and photos of the Reynolds family armed with guns and knives.
"Then, finally, along came Dad. I guess he thought he could reach out to the Schaeffers, and it looked like he had, they reached a peaceful truce for more than a couple years. All my childhood, he would tell me the family story before I went to sleep, he wanted to warn me about repeating the past," at this Lucy laughed, snorting bitterly. "Other kids got bedtime stories about princes and princesses and even pirates. Mine were about poverty and crime and blood. Some childhood–probably explains why I was so screwed up."
Amy closed the book as Lucy walked over and sat next to her on the couch. Amy put a reassuring hand on Lucy's back and rested her head on her fiancee's shoulder, eliciting a smile from the brunette. Anyway, a few skirmishes broke out a couple weeks before his death, but we didn't really think much of it. His last mission, he went to Europe after reading about this mysterious priceless necklace, the Patiala Necklace. He never returned either. After two weeks of worrying, my mother received a video tape. It showed–" Lucy choked up, a tear welling in the corner of her eye as her lips shook. Amy reached up a hand and brushed away the tear.
"What was on the tape?" Amy asked, dreading the answer for which her lover couldn't manage to find the words.
"It showed," Lucy took a deep breath, exhaling through her mouth before continuing, "It showed Nathan Schaeffer, executing my father with a single bullet. Dad was chained up to this metal slab. I burned the tape."
"After that, it was war. Slowly but surely the Schaeffers diminished in number until I made a deal with the devil. Corleone agreed to dispose of the last remaining Schaeffers, but like every deal he ever made, he required three favors in return. He sent orders out for their execution, and they were dealt with, or so I was told."
Amy's hand slid from Lucy's face as the blonde blanched.
"Amy, I was weak. Don't hate me," Lucy pleaded.
"I just cant believe it, Amy said, shaking her head." Lucy's face fell. "You made that deal and he must have never held his end of the deal. You should have reneged."
"I didn't know. Honestly."
"And that means all that shit with Chastity never should have happened."
Lucy's nose furrowed as she fell into thought. "You're right...he tricked me. God, I cant believe I was so stupid!"
"Maybe he didnt know?" Amy asked.
"Corleone? Corleone knows everything. He thinks I still owe him a third favor? Like hell I do!"
As if on cue, the phone chose that precise moment to ring.
A/N - I can't say whether I'm going to keep working on this or not. It's been a couple years, but this is a story I'd always wanted to finish. With college, a play and work all going on at the same time, I don't know if I'll find the time to write or not, but this and The Rightful Heirs (my Harry Potter story) are ones I'd rather not leave unfinished.